I used to worry about Alanis Morissette. After the release of her genius Jagged Little Pill in 1995, which sold something like 30 million copies worldwide, I knew that the backlash was coming. And I was right.
Despite the fact that her follow-up, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, was really good, the derision started to rain down - her work was too personal, people complained, the songs were cramped with too many lyrics and inevitably, critics carped that Junkie wasn't as good as Pill. True but how many discs - by anybody - are?
A few years ago, when she reworked Jagged Little Pill into a new disc, with acoustic arrangements and a South Asian tinge, courtesy of her trek to those parts of the world (Thank You, India), my concern deepened. I thought it was a sign that she'd dried up and needed to fall back on the old material.
But with the release of Flavours Of Entanglement, featuring another set of well crafted confessional tunes - centring on her breakup with Hollywood hotshot Ryan Reynolds - and her promotional tour, she's back and totally happening.
I made the trek to Massey Hall to catch the latest show earlier this month and, trust me, this woman is the real deal. It was a smart move to play a smaller venue. You got the sense that every audience member was a devotee and glad to be there. True, the sound sorta sucked, which is unusual for a symphony hall - Morissette's vocals were way too low - but she got away with it because, it seemed, everybody in the room knew every word.
The performance was a generous - two hours worth - survey of tunes, taken mostly from the recent and first CDs. Morissette, backed by a kick-ass band, tapped her ecstatic side, twirling like a whirling dervish at times, swinging her long mane, her hands twitching like a savant at others. Then she sat down with the team and performed an acoustic set, starting with Hand In My Pocket and moving through You're Still Here to the recent Not As We, her voice clear, the emotion honest
Except for allowing that it's nice to be in Toronto again, Morissette said not a single word. So I was relieved to catch her spot on George Stroumboulopoulos's show The Hour on Tuesday Night, where she talked at length about what it felt like to make such an emotionally charged disc, how she cried in the studio, how she struggles to balance the sensitive soul inside her with the egotistical artist that wants to put everything out there. She even used the word calibrate during that particular portion of the interview.
No other rock star talks like that. Oh, you can do an interview with Annie Lennox or David Bowie, who sound like they're saying something meaningful but once you get past the English accent, which is really what's making them sound smart, then you realize that, as lovely as they are, there's not alot going on there. Once you've listened to Morissette talk about art, performance and saving the planet, you realize that there is no one quite like her.
Too bad about the hair - I hate the bangs. But it's ridiculous to get superficial about a deep talent, isn' it?